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How did Kids affect your retirement plans?
Old 04-27-2010, 10:04 PM   #1
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How did Kids affect your retirement plans?

I am 30, and still on the fence about having kids. I am leaning toward yes, but it would be a few years.

I know a lot of people on here are child free by choice and it obviously increases your chanced of early retirement, but I also see many of you with children still in high school or college and you still managed to get out of the rat race.

Here are my random questions....

1. How did having kids change your retirement plans?
2. How much do kids really cost? I already bought a house, so that is fixed....seems like it wouldn't be as bad as some of these calculators suggest.
3. Is it really as rewarding as they say!? (Be honest!)
4. What if you only have one kid? My experience (friends) is that an only child is a little weird!
5. Does having a kid make work worth it? Make it suck a little less?? (wishful thinking!! )

Thanks for your advice.
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Old 04-27-2010, 10:36 PM   #2
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I've never ever regretted it.

1. The only planning we were doing was putting into our 401Ks, and we continued that, and cut back other places. It certainly has delayed my retirement. There's no way on ongoing expense like that wouldn't unless you have a real windfall.

2. Well, there's day care, clothes they outgrow incredibly fast, toys, strollers, activities, etc. Some chose private school (we didn't), and then there's college. We got divorced and I know I was into low 6 figures in child support over 15 years, but I don't know what the actual cost was.

3. Yes. Your mileage may vary. I was also just a part-time dad because of the divorce, but she was probably with me about 1/3 of her time.

4. I only had one, but she has 2 other sisters after her mom remarried. I had a friend who was an only and asked him about it, and he said it was fine, the only life he knew. It's kind of like when people from the big eastern cities ask "what was it like to grow up in Nebraska?" I don't even know how to answer, it just was what it was. It's certainly easier than juggling multiple school/activity schedules, and it's easier to go places when you're not outnumbered by your kids.

5. I never really thought about it that way. I'll say a couple things though, it's nice to have a flexible job in case of illness or to attend activities. Also, I'd say it made me a bit less risk-adverse. Some friends of mine did a start-up and I couldn't imagine joining them while there were no paychecks. I did quit mega-corp for a smaller public company that had some risk but sky rocketed, so I didn't actually miss out. I guess I'd have to say that you could be resentful being tied down to a job you don't like, though you're more likely to forget how much a job sucks when you're home with your kid. You also might be less likely to uproot kids in school and take a transfer or a new job in another town.

If ER is really you're single goal, get a pet. If you want balance or something more, have the kid.
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Old 04-27-2010, 10:51 PM   #3
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If ER is really you're single goal, get a pet. If you want balance or something more, have the kid.
What if I want both? I guess that is my main question. I realize there would be some compromise to have your cake and eat it too, but how much compromise?

P.S. Already have 2 cats, a boyfriend and a roomate (my brother)....they all keep me on my toes!
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Old 04-27-2010, 10:57 PM   #4
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Lilly.....

You may be asking the wrong question. It isn't a matter of deciding whether to have or not have children based on the potential impact to FIRE plans. It's a matter of deciding whether you want to have children or not and then, given that, asking how do you plan for FIRE in either case.

DW and I chose to have a family. That decision has been good for us. But raising a family costs money and will likely delay FIRE. We didn't make it until 58. And we're still involved as we have 3 grand kids nearby who think we're very important people and cutting the strings and moving away from them isn't likely.

Whether to have children or not is a personal thing Lilly. Decide that one way or the other and then figuring how you want to spend your life so that you wind up FIRE'd at some point will be easy.......
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:06 PM   #5
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Lilly.....

You may be asking the wrong question. It isn't a matter of deciding whether to have or not have children based on the potential impact to FIRE plans. It's a matter of deciding whether you want to have children or not and then, given that, asking how do you plan for FIRE in either case.
+1 good point!
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:36 PM   #6
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There are lots of people who may be emotionally ready for children, but not financially. I think it is important to consider both factors since they both ultimately affect the child.

You are correct that in my case, I have the luxury to choose if I am emotionally ready for children, because I am financially secure. I guess my questions are more aimed at the "deciding whether you want to have children or not and then, given that, asking how do you plan for FIRE in either case"

I am just curious about the impacts and cost, so I can prepare myself.
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:42 PM   #7
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Forgot to have kids. No regrets.
Will make FIRE easier, but it wasn't the reason for not having kids.
The two aren't mutually exclusive.
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Old 04-27-2010, 11:54 PM   #8
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1. In my case, my parents paid for my college so I'm paying for my kids' college. I also have a residence that is about twice what I otherwise would have because I want each of my 3 kids to have their own bedroom. I have to buy about twice the food, and doing things with/for my kids costs something. On the plus side financially, they reduce my income tax burden. Net of everything, my retirement date is probably about 8 years later than if I didn't have my three kids. But I'll be FIRE around my 45th birthday anyway, so the 8 years is not a big deal.

2. Anywhere from zero to a billion. Seriously, it really depends on what you think is necessary. Some people think a new car at 16 is necessary. Some people think that hand me downs are OK unless it's underwear or shoes. In my opinion, as long as the kids have good food, shelter, clothes, medical care, love, attention, education and exercise, the rest is negotiable.

Actually, I do want to add that if you have a child with unusual medical needs, the expenses there can be astronomical. In my case I am fortunate to have three basically healthy kids.

3. I think it is more challenging and serious than they say, but like RunningBum I am a divorced 1/3 of the time Dad, so I go between being a single working father of three to a "bachelor's life" style of living. It is fascinating to see how they turn out. They are full of surprises. They are of course smart, delightful, and beautiful (most of the time). It is enjoyable. Rewarding is a feeling that maybe will come later when they sprout wings and blossom into young adults.

4. I can't answer this one for you really. Of the three examples I can think of offhand, one turned out badly, one turned out very well, and one looks like she will turn out very well. I think it depends on how the parents handle it.

5. In my case it doesn't change my attitude towards work too much except that it gives a little more meaning to my work. Right now I am working on funding my youngest child's senior year in college, so every paycheck I get, I make a contribution to her college fund. So I'm working towards that goal and providing for her rather than just spending the money on some trinket.

I also talk with my kids pretty often about the connection between work, money, and our ability to have things that we need and want, and about retirement and college and stuff like that. So it does provide a framework for teaching them about money and passing along some of those values.

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Old 04-28-2010, 12:05 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by lilly View Post
You are correct that in my case, I have the luxury to choose if I am emotionally ready for children, because I am financially secure.
I assumed that based on the tone of your question, but thanks for confirming.
Quote:
I am just curious about the impacts and cost, so I can prepare myself.
As far as impacts and costs, there have been a number of discussions on this forum and there seems to be some consensus that raising children costs money (highly variable estimates as to how much), takes time and is not for the faint of heart. Most agree the rewards are great, although I recall a few exceptions to that.

DW and I are glad we made the decision we did. And we understand that, all else being equal, we could have stopped working sooner had we invested the money we spent on the family. Unlike you, we weren't well prepared financially to begin family life but did so anyway and had a few scares along the way. When DS was 6 weeks old and DW had just begun a 2 yr maternity leave, I got laid off from my night shift job at the factory. I'll tell ya, the 6 weeks it took me to find another job turned out to be quite an attitude adjustment! New baby, no one working, little savings, ugh! But we recovered, got settled down and both had careers that eventually led to FIRE at 58. Now we spend time doing what we want, including involvement with our grand kids, extended family and friends.

There are some other threads going on right now that have some comments regarding the impact of children on FIRE you can also check out.

You can have children and still RE. You'll just have to plan around the expenses the children will generate. We think it was worth it. YMMV
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Old 04-28-2010, 12:52 AM   #10
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youbet and others have made many good points. I will add my own experience here as a parent, for what it's worth.

1. How did having kids change your retirement plans?
We didn't even think about retirement when we had our children, leave alone early retirement. We just knew we had to save a lot of money, kids or not.
2. How much do kids really cost? I already bought a house, so that is fixed....seems like it wouldn't be as bad as some of these calculators suggest.
We had decent income, but not outrageous. Being LBYM, we never felt that because of the children, we had to make sacrifice such as not being able to drive new cars every few years, or miss going on luxurious vacations. Surely, our saving rates would be higher without the cost, but we never sat down to figure out how much. During our working years, our lifestyle would be the same with or without children. Well, perhaps I would be driving a sedan instead of a minivan, some superficial lifestyle change like that.

Recently, I half-jokingly posted about the pain of paying for two college tuitions during the market downturn and me having no income. But it amounted to just another 1-2% withdrawal a year, and of course it will not go on forever. I never regret spending that money on my children.
3. Is it really as rewarding as they say!? (Be honest!)
Kids are great when they are young. If they, AND you, make it past their teenage years and reach young adulthood like my children have, they are a joy again.
4. What if you only have one kid? My experience (friends) is that an only child is a little weird!
Not sure, but I don't think so.
5. Does having a kid make work worth it? Make it suck a little less?? (wishful thinking!! )
Work sucking or not is not related to the kid. However, if one is not financially able, the stress certainly can keep a person from being the best parent he/she can be. It is advisable to wait in that case. You have posted that you are ready financially. Check.

Would a kid bring joy into one's life, to give one something to look forward to at the end of a work day? Sure! But a child can also become a burden to a tired working parent. It's all in your attitude. Just be sure you are emotionally able before you bring a child into this world. No one can know how you feel.
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Old 04-28-2010, 12:54 AM   #11
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To give context:

I didn't marry until my late 30s and had my first child at age 40. My husband had adult children from a prior marriage. I loved being a mom and we then adopted a 3 year old and 8 year old from another country. I am ESRing at the end of the week and DH is retiring this summer. Our kids are now 18, 16, and 13.

Quote:
1. How did having kids change your retirement plans?
Kids impacted us in a lot of ways financially but didn't really change our retirement plans. We did consider not retiring until they were all at least through high school. But after looking at everything we have decided to do it anyway. The hardest part is not so much can we pay for college. It is that in making our life ready to retire we changed our lifestyle. To be blunt, we are going from an upper middle class lifestyle to more of a middle class lifestyle. We downsized our home severely and we won't have as much discretionary income. I did think a lot about whether that was fair to our kids who had been raised by us in a certain lifestyle and are now being switched to another one. So far they are cool with it but I'm sure there will be some bumps along the way. Ultimately I decided that I would do them no favor to try to sustain that lifestyle when we felt were would all be happier with a different lifestyle.

Quote:
2. How much do kids really cost? I already bought a house, so that is fixed....seems like it wouldn't be as bad as some of these calculators suggest.
They can cost a lot. From small things to big things. We recently bought out retirement home and I'm living in it with 2 of the kids. Our older son is about the graduate high school so DH is living with him in our old house. I just got the electric bill for April and the two of them used about 1/3 less electric than we typically use in April.

Or food. When kids get to be teenagers the incremental cost of food for an adolescent boy can be huge.

And, activities. We have never been big with activities and never over scheduled kids. Still, I have a son who does martial arts (over $1000 a year) for example.

FWIW, having 3 kids rather than 1 or 2 adds a lot to cost. When we had one child we could travel and rent one hotel room. A car that seats 4 was fine. But when we had 3 kids we needed two rooms usually and needed a larger car, etc.

And then there are the things you can't predict. Our bio son has been hugely expensive to raise. He has significant ADHD and has some different academic needs (he just graduated high school at age 15) and all of that was enormousely expensive.

The children we adopted also ended up having some expensive needs that were not anticipated. So yeah, having kids really really was expensive.

Quote:
3. Is it really as rewarding as they say!? (Be honest!)
Yes. That isn't to say that there hasn't been negative stuff. There has been. But being a parent has been the most important part of my life.

Quote:
4. What if you only have one kid? My experience (friends) is that an only child is a little weird!
I am an only child so it seems normal to me. I think it can be fine to have one child.

Quote:
5. Does having a kid make work worth it? Make it suck a little less?? (wishful thinking!! )
Well can give more purpose to it. In my case I trained for a different lower paid profession that I ultimately decided I couldn't afford to pursue if we had more than one child. So I decided to go for the kids instead.
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Old 04-28-2010, 12:56 AM   #12
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You all have great advice and have given me some food for thought. Thank you!
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Old 04-28-2010, 01:40 AM   #13
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Spouse feels now as if she didn't know enough back in 1991 about age-related pregnancy issues, and would have started earlier than age 31.

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1. How did having kids change your retirement plans?
Not a bit. College savings were on track and we felt obligated only as far as a state university.

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2. How much do kids really cost? I already bought a house, so that is fixed....seems like it wouldn't be as bad as some of these calculators suggest.
The biggest cost may be childcare if you choose to work when they're young. Otherwise it can be done on Goodwill & garage sales for a lot less than the media wants you to think.

Our teen girl can easily snorkel through $200/month of groceries. The trick is to avoid convenience foods & junk and get them to stick with raw ingredients as much as possible. Good luck with that.

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3. Is it really as rewarding as they say!? (Be honest!)
If you want to have kids, then it's every bit as rewarding as other annoying parents (including your parents) have been telling you.

If you don't want to have kids then it could be sheer unmitigated hell. Or so I've heard.

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4. What if you only have one kid? My experience (friends) is that an only child is a little weird!
I strongly suggest you read "NurtureShock" by Po Bronson. "Trophy kids" are a lot more common these days, and no credible (peer-reviewed, large population) study has found any difference between onlies & siblings families. The book also has fascinating info on teaching babies to talk and on teaching preschool kids how to focus on their interests (like school).

Our kid wanted a little sister (they never seem to pine for an older sibling) until she was old enough to appreciate the benefits of having her own bathroom. Now that she tutors little kids in math & reading, she's not even sure that she wants to have kids of her own.

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5. Does having a kid make work worth it? Make it suck a little less?? (wishful thinking!! )
Um, no and no!

It does, however, motivate you to get your ER ducks in a row before they hit middle school and would be latchkey kids or home alone on break...
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Old 04-28-2010, 02:43 AM   #14
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Although I am not retired (not because of kids)... I thought I would throw in my 2c

Quote:
1. How did having kids change your retirement plans?
Retirement, like our whole life is different because of kids - they are the focus of our life (but certainly not the only interest). We will have less net worth when we do retire but luckily we hope/expect that it won't make any difference to life as it will be excess to our requirements, we will retire somewhere to attract frequent kid visits, we will plan to leave retirement net worth to kids... although we hope/expect they won't need it.
Quote:
2. How much do kids really cost? I already bought a house, so that is fixed....seems like it wouldn't be as bad as some of these calculators suggest.
I think like the rest of life - they can be as expensive or LBYM depending upon your choices. Spouse not fully employed, followed by college will be the biggest impacts for us. Larger house not so bad - as leveraged w good return.
Quote:
3. Is it really as rewarding as they say!? (Be honest!)
I was happy single, then I married and was happier, I was happy wo kids and didn't see any need to bring more children into the world, but then was happier with kids. My 18 year old is now making the transition from kid to wonderful friend... easiest way to explain it was when I think of spouse I smile... after kids it was the same - when I think of them I smile (well perhaps not with every thought).
Quote:
4. What if you only have one kid? My experience (friends) is that an only child is a little weird!
I used to think one was not ideal for child... (I had three because hubby said two was too neat). However, have seen wonderful single children... and not so wonderful (just like multiple sibling families). I wouldn't hesitate to suggest that one could be absolutely fine.

I am no expert... but perhaps a question might be: from where do you get the most joy? If it from relationships then my guess is that kid(s) will net a big return
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Old 04-28-2010, 04:18 AM   #15
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Good question and excellent responses. Don't think I can add anything. Good luck on your decision.
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Old 04-28-2010, 07:18 AM   #16
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Kids don't need to delay your ER but I would recommend making separate, dedicated college savings from the get go so you don't end up viewing college costs as a drain.

Just think of raising kids as a "character building" exercise
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:04 AM   #17
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When I was in my 30's I never thought about early retirement and what would affect it I was too busy working and raising my children . Did they delay my retirement ? No,early retirement was never my goal . I retired at 59 and that age for me was perfect . I would not trade my children for anything . They are the best thing I have accomplished and now that I have a grandson it has really completed my life . Yes children are expensive but they are worth every penny even during the rough years .
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:09 AM   #18
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To me, financial considerations are important with respect to whether or not you can afford to feed, clothe and educate the children. If you can't provide their basic needs, you probably shouldn't have them.

But if you can support them and the only question is retirement at 50 or retirement at 55, I don't even think the retirement question is relevant. We didn't have any but it had nothing to do with moving up my retirement date. And if we decided to have them, I'm sure I'd have been willing to work to 65 if I had to in order to do it right and provide the support.
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Old 04-28-2010, 08:36 AM   #19
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Forgot to have kids. No regrets.
Will make FIRE easier, but it wasn't the reason for not having kids.
The two aren't mutually exclusive.
"Never wanted to have kids. No regrets.
Will make FIRE easier, but it wasn't the reason for not having kids.
The two aren't mutually exclusive."

I knew when I was 20 years old that I never wanted to have kids. I did not realize I could RE until I was in my late 30s. I retired in 2008 at age 45, something I never could have done if I had kids. One thing I have done more of since I retired was my volunteer work with kids.
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Old 04-28-2010, 09:10 AM   #20
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We have 2 kids and I don't think it will set back FIRE by more than a few years. I am 29 right now and think FIRE may be doable in 5-7 years. That will mean our oldest kid will be in middle school when we ER.

We have family living nearby, so we NEVER spend money on a babysitter. My MIL takes care of our kids during the day, and we give her some money each money that is way below the market price for childcare here.

The kids will go to public school. We plan on saving roughly enough to send them to one of the great local public universities, or chip in an amount towards their education wherever roughly equivalent to state school tuition.

We are in the same position as you, Lilly, regarding housing. We bought a 4 BR before we had kids, partially knowing we would have kids but also figuring we would want the space. DW wanted a yard, so it isn't like we could get much less than a 3 BR house anyway. And our 4 BR isn't much more expensive than 1-2 BR bachelor (or bachelorette) pads that some of my friends have in a slightly more expensive part of town.

Cars - so far our Civic and Accord work fine for 2 kids. If we have a third one, it may get cramped in these cars, particularly as they get older (the kids). So a larger or higher capacity vehicle may be necessary.

Tax savings are big, and get even bigger if you save for college, pay for college, pay for childcare, etc.

We don't spend a lot on baby or kids accessories and toys. So many gifts that we had to get rid of some stuff, and plenty of hand me downs.

Food - feeding 4 is cheaper per capita than feeding 1-2 people. But I have seen my teenage nephews eat, and I will say I would probably start shopping at Sam's or costco if I was feeding their never ending appetites.

Having kids is mainly a non-financial decision, because you can really control your costs if you want to. It is also a "hobby" in a way, because you won't have time for anything else the first couple years. Or maybe it is better to say you won't have energy for anything else the first couple years. Then your priorities change. You spend more time doing stuff with your kid(s) and kid-centric activities.

Which leads to my conclusion. Having kids doesn't necessarily increase your costs dramatically. But it will change your spending. Instead of us spending $15-20/person at a nice restaurant like we did pre kids, we are more likely to spend $7.50-10/person at a more family friendly restaurant, hence leaving us with the same bill if we go out to eat. And in some cases it is actually cheaper at kid-centric places. For example, McDonald's is probably the kids' favorite restaurant because they have the Play Place. Not my absolute favorite restaurant, but it is cheap and fits the craving every once in a while.

Vacations - yes it costs more to take kids on long vacations, but if we were single we would probably take more, longer, more expensive vacations anyway. Vacations with kids can be simpler and still fun.

Before having kids I didn't really know what to expect. Now that I have them, I can't imagine life without them.
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